Tigers let Niko Goodrum become free agent, clear spots for two prospects

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — In his four seasons with the Tigers, Niko Goodrum did a little bit of everything. He played every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher.

What he was never able to do, much to his chagrin, was stay healthy and secure a starting position.

Niko Goodrum couldn't nail down a regular spot.

On Friday, the Tigers announced that Goodrum, going into his age-30 season, had cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent. He was eligible for salary arbitration and the Tigers had already decided they weren’t going to tender him an offer.

The Tigers also waived minor leaguers Nivaldo Rodriguez (right-handed pitcher) and Jacob Robson (outfielder) off the 40-man roster and outrighted their contracts to Triple-A Toledo.

More: Tigers manager AJ Hinch has brunch with free agent Carlos Correa in Houston

With two of those open roster spots, the Tigers selected the contracts of two prospects — infielder Kody Clemens and right-handed pitcher Angel De Jesus — protecting them from the Rule 5 draft.

Goodrum came to the Tigers as a minor-league free agent from the Twins before the 2018 season. In 387 games in Detroit, he slashed .230/.303/.396 with a .700 OPS, accumulating a 2.3 WAR. He was a bit of a riddle at the plate. A switch-hitter, he hit more than 100 points better right-handed, but hit 36 of his 42 home runs from the left side.

Overall, he struck out 32% and had a chase rate of 33%. 

When he was healthy, he was arguably the most athletic player on the team. His best season was his first, which was also the one year he stayed mostly healthy. He played in 131 games in 2018, posting career-bests in OPS-plus (100) and slugging percentage (.432). He hit 16 home runs and knocked in 53 runs.

The highlight of his time with the Tigers had to be May 31, 2019. Playing back home in Atlanta, his first game there as a big-leaguer, he went 5 for 5 and hit two home runs. 

His trajectory with the Tigers changed dramatically in 2020. General manager Al Avila and then-manager Ron Gardenhire proclaimed him the club’s starting shortstop in spring training. It ended up being a fleeting gesture.

First the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the sport for three months and then, after just 30 starts, the Tigers pivoted and gave the shortstop job to rookie Willi Castro. Goodrum, who was a plus-3 defensive runs saved at shortstop and a Gold Glove finalist, never seemed to shake his befuddlement over that move.  

Off the field, though, few were more active in the community, whether it was donating water during and after the Flint water crisis or raising money through his doGOODthings foundation to support the RBI initiative and the Police Athletic League.

By selecting the contracts of Clemens and De Jesus, the Tigers have 39 players on its 40-man roster.

Clemens, the club’s No. 18-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, is entering his age-26 season after producing 18 home runs, 15 doubles and six triples at Triple-A Toledo last season. He is expected to fight for one of the utility roles next season.

De Jesus, 25, who struck out 61 in 52 innings at Toledo last season, is the club’s No. 29-ranked prospect.

The Tigers left No. 25-ranked prospect Paul Richan, Garrett Hill and Logan Shore — all right-handed pitchers — unprotected from the Rule 5 draft.


Twitter: @cmccosky